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Mercury: Desolation at Dawn

Mercury.  Not exactly the most hospitable place to visit, even near dawn.  By the time the sun reaches noon, the heat will melt lead. It's a dense little world.  In places near the surface, there are deposits and rich veins of more than just lead: gold, silver, platinum -- all sorts of rare and heavy elements. In theory, it would be easy to mine here, even given the extremes of temperatures.

But Mercury is inconvenient.  It might only have half the mass of Mars, but it's got about the same gravity, and getting down to the surface and back to orbit is nearly twice as hard as on Mars, because there's no atmosphere to slow you down on landing.  You almost need as much delta-V for a round trip between Mercury's surface and orbit as for a trip to low Earth orbit and back.

And the planet itself is hard to reach.  It spins around the sun so fast that you have to waste a lot of fuel to catch it -- enough fuel to get you to a transfer orbit out to the Kuiper.  True, it's faster to go to Mercury than to Pluto, but it's no big surprise that Pluto and its moons have more inhabitants than Mercury.  There are barely 200 people on Mercury on a busy day and most of them are scientists or tourists.

No other reason to bother to visit.  If you want heavy metals, find yourself a nice class M asteroid and strip it bare.  It's easier on the equipment, cheaper to transport, and it won't melt your shoes.

--Grand Tour 2150: A Guide to the Solar System, Euphoria Press

 

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